Victoria dumps public drunkness laws starting on Melbourne Cup Day

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Victoria dumps public drunkness laws starting on Melbourne Cup Day

public drunkness

The state will do away with the laws that once allowed police to arrest people for being drunk in public starting on one of the rowdiest days of the year.

On November 7 2023, the annual Melbourne Cup holiday, public drunkness will no longer be a crime as the Victorian govenment aims to take a more health-centered approach.

The shift was prompted by the death of Tanya Day, a Yorta Yorta woman who was arrested for public intoxication on a train from Bendigo to Melbourne.

Public drunkness to be decriminalized

  • The change will take place on November 7 2023, in line with the annual Melbourne Cup holiday
  • Those found drunk in public will now be taken to safe spaces to sober up rather than placed in police cells
  • The update puts Victorian regulation in line with the rest of the country, except for Queensland

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.

She was taken to spend the night in a holding cell in Castlemaine, where she slipped and hit her head. Corners ruled the death as preventable.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who have been disproportionally impacted by the public drunkness laws, have long advocated for their abolishment to help prevent deaths in custody.

The decriminalisation of public drunkness brings Victoria in line with the rest of Australia, except for Queensland. Now, instead of being arrested, those who are drunk in public will be taken to other safe spaces including sobering-up centres.

The government is running trials of the new strategy in City of Yarra, City of Greater Dandenong, City of Greater Shepparton and Mount Alexander Shire which will affect the state roll-out in November.

Some members of the police force, including The Police Association’s Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Gatt, have expressed concern about the change. In a statement, he called the new laws a “tragedy waiting to happen”.

“The government has written police entirely out of the equation when it comes to dealing with those who are drunk in public.”

According to Gatt, with officers stripped of the power to deal with those drunk in public, the work will likely fall to ambulance workers. He says The Police Association has been left with a lot of unanswered questions moving forward.

While being intoxicated in public will no longer be a crime, drinking in public places will still elicit fines.

For more on Victoria’s new public drunkness laws, head here